I am a winner...or at least I want to be. I don't like losing in just about anything in my life. Making good grades was important to me, not because I wanted to go ivy league or anything but because I wanted to be better than all the other kids at it. Playing sports was not something that me (nor my family) took lightly either. I loved to play sports; baseball, basketball, soccer AND especially ping pong. My older brother and I have played ping pong since I was 7 and he was about 12 or 13. He used to absolutely wear me out. He'd beat me constantly. 7-0. 11-1. left handed. while eating a sandwich. You name it, he'd beaten me that way. But I remember the one day when I was about 13 that everything changed. We got down to the end of a close match, the time in the game when he would typically turn it on and beat me with his eyes closed. But that didn't happen this time. On this occasion I won! I remember the bewildered look on his face and the shock at what I had done...and the fear that he might hit me or throw the paddle at me or something. I'm pretty sure we just put our paddles down and went back upstairs, but it was a big moment for me. It had made me realize that I could win..and that I liked winning. After that I began playing my younger brother in ping pong and beating him the same way I'd been beaten earlier. I won. I got used to winning. I liked it.
As baseball started getting more serious (high school, college, pro ball) so did my need to win. I "wanted" to win a state championship in HS. I "really wanted" to win a national championship at Berry. But since beginning pro ball my "want" had turned into more of a "need". I no longer simply wanted to win, I felt like if I didn't win, if I didn't progress, then my life of playing baseball would be kinda worthless. That all of the work I'd put into this game would be for naught. I could feel myself getting less and less satisfied with playing the game, and more dependent on winning the games and improving my status in the organization for fulfillment. I still loved pitching, but it had become so diluted with this need to win that it was a vague remnant of what I loved doing when I was growing up. This needed to be remedied...
Ashley has told me this before. That I have a weird need to be the best at everything I do. I need to be the best worker, best son, best pitcher, best husband. She said that simply being good at all of those things isn't good enough for me. It's kind of true. I saw it as a good thing. I mean, if being great (better than anyone else) is a bad thing, I couldn't see it. It pushed me to work hard. It made it hard for me to let my guard down, keeping me from potential bad decisions. It made me keep to a higher standard. However, this standard was both unrealistic and unfocused on God. It was a line in the sand that I had created and was constantly erasing and redrawing after each failure. Ashley would ask me "why don't you let someone else be the best in the world at something?"
The last few weeks, as I mentioned earlier in the blog, has been tough. I've come to a lot of realizations about myself, my marriage, and about the way I play baseball. The reality of the fleeting nature of baseball careers has become really evident to me lately. I don't know how many days I have left to play this game, and to spend it worrying about whether my time in it has been a success or failure, a win or loss, isn't doing the game (or my life) justice. All this to say, I pitched the other day and it was something I haven't felt in a long long time. I felt completely happy and content to be simply pitching. Not worried about winning or losing. Giving up runs or throwing shutouts. ERA or WHIP. Just enjoying the act and art of pitching.
And guess what...I threw really well. I don't know exactly where I heard it first, but I think it's a pretty true statement. It really isn't about winning or losing. It's about how you play the game.